Technically Larry the Lizard is a blue-tailed skink. He's actually longer than he looks here. While I haven't caught him and measured him, I'm guessing that nose to tail, he measures a good eight inches long. Larry lives on my front porch and has become the favorite playmate of my youngest cat, Swizzle. She sits at the glass door, watching intently, as he does tricks for her on the porch. I often find him very close to the door, looking back at the little gray cat. I don't usually mind having him around, because in addition to providing feline entertainment, he eats the small bugs that would otherwise be eating my plants.
This morning, however, I was not fond of him. I went out to pick some basel and noticed what I thought was a scrap of blue plastic newspaper wrapping in one of my planters. But when I reached for it, I discovered it was actually a blue tail (and yes, unlike the picture here, Larry's tail is a very vivid blue.) The close and slightly slimy encounter brought back a vivid memory from my long-forgotten past as a high school teacher.
I was all of 25 years old and was teaching an English class in a school located in the panhandle of Florida. I was also training a student teacher from the University of Florida, and this was the first day for her to take over the class. I was observing from the back of the room when I "observed" a student pull a small green lizard out of his pocket and start to move his hand stealthily toward the neck of the girl sitting in front of him. Visualizing the chaos about to descend on the room, I moved quickly, without thinking, to his side, snapped my fingers at him and held out my palm. Caught in the act, he had no choice but to hand me the lizard. I carried it out of the room and out of the building, tossing it away when I reached the lawn.
Only then did I look down and see that the #$%$ lizard had chewed an L-shaped cut into the fleshly part of my palm at the base of the thumb. I was bleeding rather badly, so I went to the office, hoping to beg a band-aid from the school nurse. One comment led to another, and I was soon surrounded by people who had to hear the whole story. Our biology teacher happened to be in the office, and he added fuel to the fire by saying that our local lizards did not have teeth, so the one than had bitten me must have been a tropical lizard from a pet store. And then he pronounced gravely. "We'd better find it. It could be poisonous." Soon we had a small search party combing the grass where i had released the culprit--but without success. Poor little thing must have run for his life!
Then the biology teacher returned with a new report. He had looked up our local lizards, and had discovered that during mating season, the male lizard grows a horny plate on the roof of his mouth that allows him to bite the neck of his lady lizard. So the new diagnosis was that my bite was probably not poisonous. The lizard was just looking for a mate. I had to live with that label for the rest of the school year -- "The Teacher Who Was Attacked by a Horny Lizard."